Brain Boosting Nutrition
A new era of brain science and nutrition is upon is - and it is very good news for one and all.
Study Title:Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function.
It has long been suspected that the relative abundance of specific nutrients can affect cognitive processes and emotions. Newly described influences of dietary factors on neuronal function and synaptic plasticity have revealed some of the vital mechanisms that are responsible for the action of diet on brain health and mental function. Several gut hormones that can enter the brain, or that are produced in the brain itself, influence cognitive ability. In addition, well-established regulators of synaptic plasticity, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, can function as metabolic modulators, responding to peripheral signals such as food intake. Understanding the molecular basis of the effects of food on cognition will help us to determine how best to manipulate diet in order to increase the resistance of neurons to insults and promote mental fitness.
From press release:
In addition to helping protect us from heart disease and cancer, a balanced diet and regular exercise can also protect the brain and ward off mental disorders.
Gómez-Pinilla analyzed more than 160 studies about food’s affect on the brain; the results of his analysis appear in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience.
Omega-3 fatty acids—found in salmon, walnuts and kiwi fruit—provide many benefits, including improving learning and memory and helping to fight against such mental disorders as depression and mood disorders, schizophrenia, and dementia, said Gómez-Pinilla, a member of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute and Brain Injury Research Center.
Synapses in the brain connect neurons and provide critical functions; much learning and memory occurs at the synapses, Gómez-Pinilla said.
“Omega-3 fatty acids support synaptic plasticity and seem to positively affect the expression of several molecules related to learning and memory that are found on synapses,” Gómez-Pinilla said. “Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal brain function.
“Dietary deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in humans has been associated with increased risk of several mental disorders, including attention-deficit disorder, dyslexia, dementia, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia,” he said. “A deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in rodents results in impaired learning and memory.”
Children who had increased amounts of omega-3 fatty acids performed better in school, in reading and in spelling and had fewer behavioral problems, he said.
Preliminary results from a study in England show that school performance improved among a group of students receiving omega-3 fatty acids. In an Australian study, 396 children between the ages 6 and 12 who were given a drink with omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients (iron, zinc, folic acid and vitamins A, B6, B12 and C) showed higher scores on tests measuring verbal intelligence and learning and memory after six months and one year than a control group of students who did not receive the nutritional drink. This study was also conducted with 394 children in Indonesia. The results showed higher test scores for boys and girls in Australia, but only for girls in Indonesia.
Getting omega-3 fatty acids from food rather than from capsule supplements can be more beneficial, providing additional nutrients, Gómez-Pinilla said.
Scientists are learning which omega-3 fatty acids seem to be especially important. One is docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, which is abundant in salmon. DHA, which reduces oxidative stress and enhances synaptic plasticity and learning and memory, is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in cell membranes in the brain.
“The brain and the body are deficient in the machinery to make DHA; it has to come through our diet,” said Gómez-Pinilla, who was born and raised in salmon-rich Chile and eats salmon three times a week, along with a balanced diet. “Omega-3 fatty acids are essential.”
A healthy diet and exercise can also reduce the effect of brain injury and lead to a better recovery, he said.
Recent research also supports the hypothesis that health can be passed down through generations, and a number of innovative studies point to the possibility that the effects of diet on mental health can be transmitted across generations, Gómez-Pinilla said.
A long-term study that included more than 100 years of birth, death, health and genealogical records for 300 Swedish families in an isolated village showed that an individual’s risk for diabetes and early death increased if his or her paternal grandparents grew up in times of food abundance rather than food shortage.
“Evidence indicates that what you eat can affect your grandchildren’s brain molecules and synapses,” Gómez-Pinilla said. “We are trying to find the molecular basis to explain this.”
Controlled meal-skipping or intermittent caloric restriction might provide health benefits, he said.
Excess calories can reduce the flexibility of synapses and increase the vulnerability of cells to damage by causing the formation of free radicals. Moderate caloric restriction could protect the brain by reducing oxidative damage to cellular proteins, lipids and nucleic acids, Gómez-Pinilla said.
The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative damage. Blueberries have been shown to have a strong antioxidant capacity, he noted.
In contrast to the healthy effects of diets that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, diets high in trans fats and saturated fats adversely affect cognition, studies indicate.
Junk food and fast food negatively affect the brain’s synapses, said Gómez-Pinilla, who eats fast food less often since conducting this research. Brain synapses and several molecules related to learning and memory are adversely affected by unhealthy diets, he said.
Emerging research indicates that the effects of diet on the brain, combined with the effects of exercise and a good night’s sleep, can strengthen synapses and provide other cognitive benefits, he added.
In Okinawa, an island in Japan where people frequently eat fish and exercise, the lifespan is one of the world’s longest, and the population has a very low rate of mental disorders, Gómez-Pinilla noted.
Folic acid is found in various foods, including spinach, orange juice and yeast. Adequate levels of folic acid are essential for brain function, and folate deficiency can lead to neurological disorders such as depression and cognitive impairment. Folate supplementation, either by itself or in conjunction with other B vitamins, has been shown to be effective in preventing cognitive decline and dementia during aging and enhancing the effects of antidepressants. The results of a recent randomized clinical trial indicate that a three-year folic acid supplementation can help reduce the age-related decline in cognitive function.
In patients with major depression and schizophrenia, levels of a signaling molecule known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, are reduced. Antidepressants elevate BDNF levels, and most treatments for depression and schizophrenia stimulate BDNF. Here, too, omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial, as is the curry spice curcumin, which has been shown to reduce memory deficits in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease and brain trauma. BDNF is most abundant in the hippocampus and the hypothalamus—brain areas associated with cognitive and metabolic regulation.
The high consumption of curcumin in India may contribute to the low prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease on the subcontinent.
In humans, a mutation in a BDNF receptor has been linked to obesity and impairments in learning and memory.
“BDNF is reduced in the hippocampus, in various cortical areas and in the serum of patients with schizophrenia,” Gómez-Pinilla said. “BDNF levels are reduced in the plasma of patients with major depression.”
Smaller food portions with the appropriate nutrients seem to be beneficial for the brain’s molecules, such as BDNF, he said.
Gómez-Pinilla showed in 1995 that exercise can have an effect on the brain by elevating levels of BDNF.
He noted that while some people have extremely good genes, most of us are not so lucky and need a balanced diet, regular exercise and a good night’s sleep.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Fernando Gómez-Pinilla Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 2008 July 9, 568-578.
Related Entries: GABA: Managing Brain Stimulation, Anxiety, and Other Consequences
Brain Fatigue: Fundamental Solutions
Brain Fatigue 101
Astonishing Benefits of Cranberries
Summer Heat Stress – More Than Just Dehydration
Chronic Active Epstein Barr Virus: Additional Tools for the Battle
Pine Nut Oil Reduces Inflammation, Clotting Risk, and Fatty Liver Congestion
New Findings with Epstein Barr Virus: The Sleeping Giant
Type 1 Diabetes: Risk Factor Alert
Disrupted Gut Clocks Linked with IBS, GERD, Obesity, and Other GI Concerns
Body Clocks and Weight Management – It’s All About Timing
Saturated Fat Myth – Debunked Again
Powerful Nutrition for Common Chemical Exposures
Endocrine Disruptor Compounds and Natural Solutions
Endocrine Disruptor Compounds and Your Hormones
Low Blood Pressure Linked with Brain Atrophy
Vitamin K, Leptin, AGEs, and Arthritis
Advanced Solutions for Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis: Good Oils versus Bad Oils and Inflammation
High Levels of Omega 6 Fatty Acids Found in Bones of Osteoarthritis Patients Worsens Joint Breakdown
Lipoic Acid Protects the Heart and Immune System from Acute Emotional Stress
Whiplash, Thyroid, and Adrenals
Brain Inflammation Now Documented in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Brain Protective Effects of Proathocyanidins
Nutrient Highlight: Discover the Best Form of Folate
Lutein and Zeaxanthin Offset Gene Weaknesses that Cause Macular Degeneration
Lycopene Builds Its Anti-Prostate Cancer Case
Carotenes Improve the Quality of Semen
Vitamin B12 as Methylcobalamin Repairs Nerves & Lowers Pain
Folic Acid Activates Neural Stem Cells for Brain Rejuvenation
Chromium Improves Insulin Function & Reduces Binge Eating
How Fiber and Niacin Protect Against Colon Inflammation and Cancer
Berries Have Anti-Aging Impact on Immune System
Strawberries Reduce Cardiovascular Risk
Friendly Flora Improves Fatty Liver Disease
Flavonoid Intake Improves Cardio Health in At-Risk Men
Polyphenols and Essential Fatty Acids Reduce Cardio Risk in Overweight People
Vitamin C Reduces the Risk for Hemorrhagic Stroke
Testosterone Therapy Increases Heart Attack Risk
Magnesium Intake Linked to Lower Cardiovascular Inflammation
Q10 Boosts Energy, Nerves, Muscles & Metabolism
Coenzyme Q10 Remarkably Improves Circulation
Tyrosine Helps Maintain Mental Ability Under Stress
Green Tea Extract Lowers Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, Blood Sugar & Inflammation
Poor Flexibility is a Sign of Stiff Arteries
A Sluggish Lymph System Causes Snoring & Sleep Apnea
DHA is Vital to Cardiovascular Wellness
Magnesium Supplements Lower Blood Pressure, Prevent Calcification
Magnesium for the Prevention of Heart Disease
Pomegranate Protects HDL Cholesterol from Damage
Pomegranate Blocks Flu Replication
Tocotrienols: Twenty Years of Dazzling Cardiovascular and Cancer Research
Is Resveratrol the Fountain of Youth?
Grape Seed Extract Lowers Blood Pressure
Scientists Tout Resveratrol as a Primary Nutrient for Cardio Health
Leptin, Thyroid, and Weight Loss
Excess Appetite Causes Abdominal Fat
Low Energy? Detect Thyroid Related Fatigue
Curcumin Boosts AMPK Activation, Prevents Fatty Liver
Quercetin Activates Mitochondrial Biogenesis
Quercetin Guards Against Inflammation-Induced Bone Loss
Head Injuries Double or Triple the Risk of Early Death
Fatty Fish Consumption Lowers the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes by 33%
Flavonoids Continue to Show Potent Diabetes Prevention
Vitamin K2 Decreases Bone Loss in Postmenopausal Women
Cissus Quadrangularis Enhances Fracture Healing
Cissus Quadrangularis Reduces Exercise-Related Joint Pain
Nobiletin and Tangeretin Help Protect Against Bone Loss
Nobiletin and Tangeretin Inhibit Respiratory Virus
Oregano Oil Inhibits Biofilm Formation
Bromelain Helps Chronic Sinus Inflammation
Curcumin Demonstrates Potent Anti-Flu Properties
Quercetin Protects Brain and Body from Low Oxygen Stress
Ubiquinol Q10 Protects Against Magnified Tissue Injury
Ubiquinol Q10 Protects Eyes of Diabetic Patients
Limonene Promotes Healing of Digestive Lining
Magnesium Intake Reduces Mortality
Fiber is Vital for Cardio Health
Friendly Flora Boosts Weight Loss in Obese Women
Tocotrienols Help Correct Fatty Liver in Humans
Vitamin E Boosts Quality of Life for Alzheimer’s Patients
Astaxanthin Demonstrates Brain Protection & Rejuvenation
Top 10 Health Stories of 2013
Resveratrol’s Amazing Anti-Aging Effect on Circulation
Grape Seed Extract Normalizes Blood Pressure in Mild Hypertension Patients
Don’t Let Bacterial Infections Set Up Shop
Viral Replication Fueled by Sugar
Anti-Vitamin Propaganda Hits a Fever Pitch
Antacid Medications Cause Vitamin B12 Deficiency, Speed Aging
Men Should Take Folic Acid Prior to Conception to Prevent Birth Defects
Exercise Potently Reduces the Risk for Diseases of Aging
Fisetin Demonstrates Potent Bone Protection Properties
Green Tea (EGCG) Improves Body Weight and Autoimmune Arthritis
Low Midlife Iron Contributes to Declining Cognitive Function in Women
DHA Reduces Inflammation in Brains of Alzheimer’s Patients
Low Magnesium Linked to Poor Vitamin D Status
Vitamin D Lowers Depression and Nerve Pain in Women with Type 2 Diabetes
Adequate Vitamin D is Needed to Prevent Brain Damage
Nutrition Makes Anti-Aging Possible: Secrets of Your Telomeres
Most Popular News:
Connect with Wellness Resources: